Team petitions for coach

Brad Rzyczycki currently occupies the Gannon University football team’s head coach’s office. With bare walls and a clear desk, the corner room’s appearance in the Carneval Athletic Pavilion mirrors the uncertain fate of the squad’s near future.

Rzyczycki, who has been under the interim label since previous coach Jim Kiernan resigned from the post in early March, is one of an unidentified number of candidates vying for the head coaching position.

The Knights, coming off a 4-7 record in 2011, have managed an improvised spring camp, which culminates with Gannon’s annual spring game Saturday.

“Jim’s resignation really took us all by surprise,” said Rzyczycki, who has served as Gannon’s defensive coordinator since Kiernan took over in 2007. “But one thing he did do was lay a solid foundation for the team to build.”

And the Knights hope to indeed continue to build, as a group of rising seniors are seeing to it that they do all in their power to remove Rzyczycki’s interim tag. Linebacker Jon Petrigac, tight end Donny Mallin, offensive linemen Josh Williams, defensive lineman Matt Jones and receiver Jon Jones took it upon themselves to organize and distribute a petition in favor of Rzyczycki’s hiring.

“Myself and a few other students decided to put our support behind Coach Rzyczycki and after we brought it up with the rest of the team, 100 percent said they want him to be the head coach,” Petrigac said.

The group of seniors presented the petition to Athletic Director Mark Richard Friday.

“When we talked to the athletic director, we didn’t say, ‘Hey, the team wants him as our coach,’” Petrigac said. “We just told him if you’re interested in the team’s take, we’re in full support behind Coach Rzyczycki.”

The team also informed Rzyczycki of the petition last week.

“I’m very appreciative of the support, and it’s things like this why I’m in this business,” he said.

“I’m not able to get involved with that type of thing because it’s using self-promotion through the team, which isn’t fair. That’s not my personality and it wouldn’t be the right thing to do.”

Richard, for his part, said he is unable to discuss specifics of the search due to privacy rights, but that the opening has garnered “a lot of interest,” and the applicants make up “a very experienced pool on all levels.”

“We’re diligently going through the process of determining the next coach,” Richard said.

Currently, Rzyczycki said the Knights are doing all they can to ensure continuity in the uncertain present.

“Schematically, on offense we’re running a dummied down version of our offense last year,” Rzyczycki said. “From a personnel standpoint we just want to get the quarterbacks in a good position to make their reads and where every player should be.”

The Knights’ offense ranked 13th out of 16 teams, averaging 270 yards and just under 20 points per game in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference in 2011 when Kiernan also served as play-caller and offensive coordinator. But the players say they can already see a difference in practices under Rzyczycki’s watch.

“There seems to be more intensity and discipline,” Petrigac said. “We’re getting a lot more done, and I feel there’s no wasted time.

“I think it’s just his physical presence that he brings. He’s really about discipline and getting things done.”

The Knights will get a chance to test out the 2012 squad when they take to the Gannon University Field 10 a.m. Saturday for their annual spring game.

 

JOE CUNEO

[email protected]